New Yorkers, you can now learn how to wield a lightsaber just like Luke Skywalker (or Darth Vader, if you've gone over to the dark side). The New York Jedi (NYJ), started in 2005, are "a community of cosplayers, martial artists, and teachers who share practical stage combat techniques oriented toward lightsabers in order to create illuminated stage combat."
Flynn Michael is the founder and Jedi grandmaster of the New York City-based group. In an interview with The New York Times, Flynn described himself as a "sci-fi, heavy-metal, over-the-top geek" who came up with the idea for the group during the 2005 Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, where he and some friends did a lightsaber routine that got a great reaction. However, he's had a love of and fascination with "Star Wars" since its release in 1977. He explained to the Times, "I realized that George Lucas made the ideal archetype from all the best disciplines we have. I was beat up a lot as a kid, and the lightsaber brings out that strong hero inside of you, so you can stand up for yourself."
Inspiration via Lightsaber
Although NYJ is considered a social club, they're much more than that. "It's also empowering as a female, a fairly petite one at that -- I'm 5'0'' -- to hold my own in a fight on stage in a role that has absolutely nothing to do with finding or keeping a boyfriend," said member Melissa Koval. "Instead, it's about pursuing my character's own agenda in a genre that is often so male-driven and male-focused. I hope in some way I can be a role model to other women and girls who see me perform."
In addition to activities with the group, members also create their own heroes, dress up, get to know like-minded people, and engage in combat with lightsabers. New York Jedi member Joaquin Quintana explained, "The most appealing aspects of New York Jedi are the creativity, camaraderie, and combat, as well as the creation of characters." Members also do a variety of appearances, including those at conventions and private events.
They've received quite a bit of notoriety and attention over the years. In 2005 at Big Apple Comic Con, NYJ reportedly sold their first lightsaber to Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars" trilogy. Fisher, in turn, gave it to Yoko Ono. Not bad for NYJ's very first convention.
Become a Jedi Member
So how can you join NYJ? Become a part of the online forum by signing up at SaberWars.com. Quite a few members stay a part of the group for years and make plenty of memories and friends along the way. "I'm about to pass my three-year mark of swinging around glorified glow sticks. I'm sporting several injuries sustained during performances, and I couldn't be happier. I met my lovely companion, Melissa, thanks to these guys, and will be forever grateful," said Russ Briggeman Jr.
In case you're not familiar with how to wield a lightsaber, the New York Jedi offer a lightsaber stage combat class. Everybody is welcome. Member Jason Hoffman said, "We have people who are actors, martial artists, DJs, as well as people who are good at public relations and administration. There's a place for everyone, and it's only a coincidence that we all share nerdy and geeky interests." There are classes every week, many of which are only $10, and although they were once reserved for teens and adults 14 and up, as of summer 2013, there will be special classes for kids ages 9-13.
- Arts & Entertainment